Tips On How To Cope With Self-Isolation If You’re Struggling With Mental Health
Isolation is, by definition, a lonely prospect. And while maintaining social distancing is vital to help tackle the spread of coronavirus, it can still be tough on mental health.
A lot of people rely on being able to see and speak to others, to socialise and get out of the house as a way to get out of their own heads, feel connected to those around them and feel supported by friends and family.
Unfortunately, those activities are now exactly what we are being urged not to do. To help address this issue, Stephen Buckley, Head of Information at mental health charity Mind, has shared with UNILAD some tips on how to maintain good mental health and stay connected while social distancing.
Make regular phone calls and video chats
We are better equipped to stay connected now more than ever, as technology offers the opportunity to message, call and even have face-to-face conversations with loved ones no matter how far away they may be.
Taking advantage of communication aids is paramount at a time like this, as they allow you to engage in real conversation and offer a reminder that you’re not alone in the situation. Those you would have spent time meeting up with are still there, just on the other end of the phone.
It’s important to stay connected with one another during this time, especially if you or someone you know experiences a mental health problem. Organise regular check ins with people you are close to.
If you feel you might run out of things to talk about, you could try reading the same book or watching the same show and then discuss it when you next talk to each other.
Self-isolation can be particularly lonely if you live by yourself, and don’t have housemates to talk with day-to-day. Again, technology is key to overcoming the feeling of literal isolation, with social media providing a whole world of conversations and connectivity that can be key to maintaining your well-being.
You could also explore whether there are any helplines that may be beneficial for you or any online peer support groups you can join. Try to schedule in catch-ups with family and friends over the phone or through video calls.
As well as staying connected for your own well-being, reaching out to friends and family helps them feel a sense of unity too. In terms of how we can help one another during this time, initiating conversation is one of the most simple and beneficial things we can do.
Stephen added that if you feel like your loved one’s mental health is getting worse during isolation, do what you can to support them to seek help. The Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) has compiled a list of mental health charities across the globe where you can find support and advice.
If you are currently receiving ongoing treatment and support for a physical or mental health problem, it is important you continue to access this where possible.
Stay mentally and physically active
While the thought of lounging around on the sofa in your pyjamas all day sounds appealing, it’s likely to get old quickly.
Stephen advised trying to build physical activity into your daily routine, and with the number of YouTube videos and fitness influencers out there now it’s all too easy to find workout routines you can do at home – for all ages and abilities.
Doing exercise can help you feel accomplished and releases endorphins, which help bring about a feeling of general positivity and well-being.
It’s also key to keep your brain challenged and occupied, so make an effort to set aside time for more engaging activities, such as reading books or articles, listening to podcasts, watching films or doing puzzles.
Create a routine
If you’re working from home, it’s tempting to roll out of bed five minutes before your shift is due to start – or even just grab your laptop and work while in bed, rather than going through the motions of having a shower, cleaning your teeth, getting dressed and having breakfast.
Staying inside all day can also result in an increase in snacking, which, while not necessarily bad, might result in a failure to have regular, healthy meals.
However, aimlessly making your way through the day can result in feelings of laziness, boredom and lack of motivation, and failing to effectively fuel your body can leave you feeling drained and unhealthy. In turn, these can be detrimental to your mental well-being.
Stephen stressed the importance of creating habits, saying:
Make sure you are staying hydrated by drinking enough water and eating regularly. Being at home may impact your routine which can affect your appetite or when you drink water. It can be beneficial to create a new routine that makes sure you are looking after yourself and stick to it.
Creating a good routine and eating regular, healthy meals will help you stay energised, organised and focused while self-isolating, helping you to take on each day with purpose and a positive outlook.
Try to access nature
Though self-isolation largely equates to staying inside, there are still some ways you can get your fill of nature. If you have access to a garden, try to get out at lunchtime to get some fresh air and watch the world go by; it can offer a change of scenery and time away from the space in which you’re self-isolating.
If you’re unable to go outside, Stephen noted the benefit of simple things like taking care of a potted plant or sitting by the window and watching the birds. Accessing nature can help take your mind off any concerns or feelings of frustration you might be having by staying indoors, and can help you remember there is more going on than what is within your four walls.
Turn off the news
Though it is important to stay up to date with the latest government advice regarding coronavirus, don’t be afraid to turn off the news or take a break from social media if you suffer from health anxiety, or if an influx of information about the outbreak causes you to become overwhelmed. Simply switching off the TV or your phone or computer can be helpful to maintain your well-being.
If you’re keen to stay informed, Dr Aiysha Malik from the World Health Organization’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Use told UNILAD that sticking to credible sources and following the advice of public health authorities can help with anxiety and fear.
Dr Aiysha added:
People experiencing a high level of distress should talk to people they trust for emotional support and potentially get in touch with a local health-care provider, if needed.
If you choose to distance yourself from constant updates about the virus, you could ask a friend or family member to keep you updated with essential information.
As difficult as it may be, the importance of social distancing and self-isolation at this time is paramount. Coronavirus is transmitted from person to person, and can spread through respiratory droplets that may come out through a cough or sneeze.
Even if you have not experienced any symptoms of coronavirus, avoiding crowds and interaction can help ‘flatten the curve’ by preventing the virus from spreading quickly and causing healthcare systems to become overwhelmed.
The UK government has put into place a number of stipulations to reduce the social interaction between people and in turn help reduce the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19).
Stay at home [and] only go outside for food, health reasons or essential work.
Stay two metres (6ft) away from other people.
Wash your hands as soon as you get home.
If you have experienced symptoms such as a new, continuous cough or a high temperature, you must stay at home for seven days from when your symptoms started. If you live with someone who has experienced symptoms, you must not leave the house for 14 days, starting from the day the first person in the house became ill.
It’s no secret that self-isolation can be difficult, but it must be remembered that it’s for the good of the population. By following the tips provided by Mind and continuing to communicate with loved ones, you can help take care of your mental health and prevent self-isolation from feeling too isolating.
If you’re experiencing distressing thoughts and feelings, the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is there to support you. They’re open from 5pm–midnight, 365 days a year. Their national number is 0800 58 58 58 and they also have a webchat service if you’re not comfortable talking on the phone.
It’s okay to not panic. LADbible and UNILAD’s aim with our coronavirus campaign, Cutting Through, is to provide our community with facts and stories from the people who are either qualified to comment or have experienced first-hand the situation we’re facing. For more information from the World Health Organization on coronavirus, click here.